Newport stuns Laguna Beach

GOLETA — As of Friday night, the favorite Twitter account of the Newport Harbor High girls' water polo team stood at 44 followers.

"Things Schil Says" (@thingsschilsays) is an account where the Sailors post tweets, often colorful in nature, that are quotes from their junior teammate Elissia Schilling.

"Six more followers and we're at 50," senior Maddy McLaren said. "That's our goal. The goal will consistently be rising, but right now it's set at 50."

Talk of Schilling and goals isn't just reserved for cyberspace. She scored a huge one Friday night to win a Santa Barbara Tournament of Champions quarterfinal at Dos Pueblos High.

Schilling's lob shot with 1:09 left in the first sudden-death overtime period capped a dramatic comeback, as No. 4-seeded Newport Harbor stunned No. 5 Laguna Beach, 7-6. The Sailors will play top-seeded Foothill in a TOC semifinal game at 11:10 a.m. Saturday at Santa Barbara High.

Newport's stirring comeback was fueled by Schilling, who scored a game-high three goals. The last one was the biggest, and after she scored she raised both hands in celebration.

"I knew the clock was running down, so I spun real quickly and held my water," Schilling said. "Sophie [Leveque] got [the ball] in, and I tried to go for the ejection but that wasn't working. I saw the goalie kind of coming out to steal it, and I just flicked it up."

The Sailors (10-3) stole one from Laguna (13-2). The Breakers owned a 4-0 lead at halftime. It seemed reminiscent of the CIF Southern Section Division I quarterfinals last year, when Laguna shut down Newport to claim a 7-3 victory.

Slowly Newport came back Friday. Allyson Hall broke the Sailors into the scoring column off a pass from fellow junior Avery Peterson. Then Schilling scored a six-on-five goal. After Peterson scored (assisted by Presley Pender), the Breakers' lead was trimmed to 4-3 after three quarters.

"I think we came back with a lot of energy in the second half," said McLaren, who had one goal and three steals. "We just never did that in the playoffs last year. We just let it get into our heads. I think this game, the second half, was really a team effort. There were a lot of goals where someone would get a steal that would lead to a counter, to a kickout, and someone else would score. That's one person scoring but five people doing something great."

Laguna freshman phenom Makenzie Fischer scored early in the fourth quarter to put Laguna back up two goals, but the Tars kept working. After Pender's shot went off the bar, Schilling flipped the rebound into the goal with 5:25 to play. Then junior Carly Christian used her counterattack speed to earn a penalty shot, which McLaren converted.

Leveque scored the go-ahead goal with a minute left, on a pass from McLaren. That set up a wild offensive sequence for Laguna.

Newport Harbor goalie Cleo Harrington (12 saves) made a big stop with 39 seconds left, but Peterson was simultaneously whistled for an exclusion. Coach Bill Barnett, who vehemently disagreed with the call, said after the game it was called because Peterson was waving her hand.

"She was too close [to the shooter]," Barnett said. "If she backed up and got her arm up, then she could wave it, but she was too close."

Newport worked back to full strength, but never got possession of the ball. That allowed Laguna senior Yoshi Andersen to bury a huge shot from about six meters with six seconds left in the game, tying it and sending it to sudden-death overtime.

Schilling's heroics after several overtime possessions set off a big Sailors celebration.

"I just threw my hands up," Schilling said. "I didn't know what else to do. I was so happy for my whole team. We never gave up; we kept battling."

Fischer scored two goals to lead the Breakers, though Peterson played solid two-meter defense on her.

Schilling also led Newport with three goals in its tournament opener, a 9-3 victory over El Toro. The Sailors were strong defensively in that contest, allowing no "natural" goals as El Toro got two goals on six-on-five and one on a penalty shot.

Saturday's TOC semifinal represents the third meeting of the year between the Sailors and Knights. The two perennial Division I powerhouses have split the first two meetings, with Newport winning at Foothill, 13-11, on Dec. 9. Foothill came back for a 7-5 win Dec. 31 in a Holiday Cup semifinal, on its way to the title.

"They came out with a lot of energy in that [Holiday Cup] game, just because we had beat them in the game that I was absent," McLaren said. "I think [Saturday], both teams will come out with a lot of energy. We each have a win. I think [Saturday's game] should be very telling of where each team stands."

Don't be surprised if "Schil" again has a say in the result.

Twitter: @mjszabo

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